July 24, 1864, The Battle Tupelo
Union Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith, commanding the Sixteenth Corps with more than 14,000 men, left LaGrange, Tennessee on July 5, 1864, and advanced south. Smith’s mission was to insure that Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest and his cavalry did not raid Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s railroad supply line in middle Tennessee supporting the campaign against Atlanta. Laying waste to the countryside as he advanced, Smith reached Pontotoc, Mississippi, on July 11th. Forrest was in nearby Okolona with about 6,000 men, but his commander, Lieut. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, told him he could not attack until he was reinforced. Two days later, Smith, fearing an ambush, moved east toward Tupelo. On the previous day, Lee had arrived near Pontotoc with 2,000 additional men and, under his command, the entire Confederate force engaged Smith. Lee attacked at 7:30 am on the 14th in a number of uncoordinated assaults which the Yankees beat back, causing heavy casualties. Lee halted the fighting after a few hours. Short on rations, Smith did not pursue but started back to Memphis on the 15th. Criticized for not destroying Forrest’s command, Smith had however caused much damage and had fulfilled his mission of insuring the safety of Sherman’s supply lines.